Nicodemus knew a lot. He told Jesus so. He knew Jesus did miracles and only God could do miracles. So Nicodemus logically deduced that Jesus was a teacher sent by God.
He thought himself expansive. He hadn’t trusted rumors and second-hand information. He had done what we should all do: gone to the source. He came to inform Jesus of his open-mindedness.
We know, he told Jesus, that you are could not do these miracles except God’s hand was on you.
As a Pharisee, he knew the ancient writings intimately. And he missed the point. Jesus might be a teacher or a prophet. But he might also be the Messiah, and Nicodemus never considered that.
So what he knew was limited to his own preconceptions. He “knew” what the Messiah would look like, and it wasn’t this man. Yet Jesus responded with compassion, addressing exactly that point in his response.
You can’t see the truth without being changed, Jesus told him. You don’t have the ability to know truth in your present state. The change must be as radical.
Here was the kingdom of God standing before him, and Nicodemus’ knowing was pretty thin. He couldn’t see who Jesus was.
Jesus revealed truth, compassion, salvation to Nicodemus. John 3 contains an amazing theological discussion about the nature of knowing, the mission of the Messiah, the personality of belief.
Yesterday we talked about Jesus knowing what was in a person in John 2. The message flows into John 3 where Jesus reveals that our knowing is nothing like his. He knows what is in us while we don’t even know what is in ourselves.
We think belief comes by seeing – miracles, charisma, signs – but Jesus made it clear that enduring belief does not come from within ourselves unless we are changed. It’s like being born a second time or like having the wind of the Spirit blow through.
Our knowing can’t even produce belief. We need help.
Next: a conflict of knowing